Victorian Waterway Emerging Leaders meet for Workshop 2 in Healesville, Yarra Valley – June 2023

The Victorian Waterway Management Emerging Leaders Program held its second workshop for 2023 in the beautiful Yarra Valley, Victoria.

Mentors and mentees again got together for the chance to reconnect, re-energise and learn. Day one started with the simple ice-breaking game Two Truths and a Lie, an exercise where participants share two true stories about themselves and a lie, with the remaining group left to try and decipher which stories are true.

We’ve run this exercise a few times and it’s fair to say that this one produced some remarkable and fascinating stories. The details will stay within the room, but it was again a reminder of just how incredible people are, and sometimes, how little we know about the people we work with. One sure thing, it provided plenty of conversation starters for dinner that night!

Siwan then led a professional development session on leadership and neuroscience and the relationship between the two. We learned how the environments we create in our workplaces can influence our brain chemistry and therefore, our capacity to think, learn and be creative.

This session included a concept known as Above the line and below the line thinking which showed how high pressure and low motivation environments impact our ability to be creative. Conversely, workplaces and leadership styles can promote an environment to be creative and therefore develop ideas about how our work can have greater impact. This session has laid the groundwork for a further session later in the year on how we can make sure our work has impact long after the project funding has finished.

Conversations in the room about leadership qualities and neuroscience, and then over a cuppa.

Out in the field

For the afternoon session, the team headed out to the Yarra Valley Water Sewerage Treatment Plant to learn about their project to recover two critically endangered species in Victoria; the Lowland Leadbeater’s Possum and the Helmeted Honeyeater.

We were extremely grateful to have project manager and guide for the day Nat Hackett lead us around the Yarra Valley Water property, taking the time to outline the vision, partnerships, complexities and passion involved in such a large project.

A stop by the river for a conversation was a real highlight, with 24 water and waterway industry professionals learning about the project and sharing knowledge and ideas. In the space of about 20 minutes, we covered a wide range of themes relevant to the project including eDNA (benefits and limitations), hydrological mapping, First Nations and community engagement, lessons from other Water Authority projects, ideas on selecting the right plant species, all in the context of managing treated and recycled water and waterway health. It was a simple exchange which showed how much knowledge there is across the group, and how much waterway restoration relies on collaboration to be successful.

A highlight of the day – a waterway conversation which covered a wide range of topics and tips. Thank you to Yarra Valley Water Project Manager Nat Hackett (in orange speaking to the group) for her time and expertise on the day.

The group then travelled several kilometers away to Haining Farm where restoration works have been undertaken previously. Ultimately, the project by Yarra Valley Water aims to connect with this property to create a corridor for the two species. For the group, it was a nice way to see the vision for the project through work that has been undertaken years earlier.

For more about this amazing project, see the full story at: Utility leads habitat creation to support endangered species (

The group visited Haining Farm to hear of Yarra Valley Water’s vision for their project to connect with this restored site.

Dinner is always a highlight for our workshops and this one proved no exception. Fueled with stories from two-truths and lie and the field trip, the group had an enjoyable evening getting to know more about each other and their journey to be working in the water industry.

Dinner time, where plenty of stories were shared.

On day two, it was the mentors and mentees time to shine, with each pair presenting to the group on how they’ve been travelling throughout the year and progress on their projects to date. This was a real highlight of the workshop, as we all got to learn more about how each of the pairs had connected to form genuine mentor-mentee relationships, and friendships.

Three things we learned from hearing from our participants this year:

  1. We have a room full of current and future leaders in the water industry, with an exceptional range of knowledge and expertise across the group.
  2. Our world has changed post-covid. Technology has allowed us to speed things up, be more contactable than ever, and the water industry is flat-out tackling a wide range of complex management issues.
  3. In such a busy environment, we can have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to deliver more. There’s a saying that ‘if you want something done, give it to a busy person’. This can mean work continues to find busy people. Our passion for our waterways means we often have an emotional connection to our work which can make it rewarding, while also meaning we can feel as though we are not doing enough. Later this year, we’ll be running development sessions with the group about these issues.

It was a fantastic one and a half days in the Yarra Valley. The location for our second workshop this year was chosen so we could see the work that Yarra Valley Water is doing to use recycled water and undertake work for two critically endangered species. Yarra Valley Water has been a strong supporter of the program this year with four participants engaged, while also having supported the former Twinning program over five years from 2015 to 2020.

We are also grateful for our supporters of the program, the Victorian Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action (DEECA) which provides the core funding, Glenelg-Hopkins CMA, and the River Basin Management Society which supported two mentees to participate this year.

We’re looking forward to our graduation in Melbourne in November.

Our 2023 cohort at the Yarra Valley Water Sewerage Treatment Plant, June 2023